The symbolic leader of the global Anglican Communion, the archbishop of Canterbury, has triggered a vigorous debate on poverty in Britain after writing about his shock at the plight of hunger-stricken poor in the country.
Archbishop Justin Welby wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper on December 7 that he was left more shocked by the plight of a hunger-stricken British family forced to turn to a food bank than by the suffering in African refugee camps.
"I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here," Welby, who was once an oil industry and banking executive, wrote in an article in the Sunday newspaper.
He noted that food is being wasted at "astonishing" levels across Britain, but that hunger "stalks large parts" of the country.
Churches are leading the response to the problems they see people facing in their local communities, he said..
SETTING UP FOOD BANKS
"A large and growing number of churches have responded urgently by setting up food banks. Many also help to feed children who are hungry during the school holidays," said Welby, the spiritual head of the Church of England.
The archbishop is backing a parliamentary report to be presented to Parliament on December 8 which maps out how to eradicate hunger in Britain by 2020.
"Tomorrow, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty, led by Frank Field MP and the Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Tim Thornton, will publish its report and recommendations.
"The group has undertaken careful research with colleagues from across the political parties to find out what is happening behind the stories we hear of hunger and of people turning to food banks in increasing numbers," Welby wrote.
He said churches are leading the response to the problems they see people face in their local communities.
"A large and growing number of churches have responded urgently by setting up food banks. Many also help to feed children who are hungry during the school holidays."
The Anglican leader is Welby urging legislation to allow food companies to pass on goods they can no longer sell
"At least some of the food being sent to the incinerator should be used as a force for good to help out of the rut in which they [poor people] find themselves."
Welby said, "We need to make it easier for food companies to give edible surplus food to charities and still encourage them to send inedible food for energy production.
"The big names in the food business have a moral obligation to communities. We need to make sure that the financial incentives in their industry don't act against their moral instincts."
Tim Worstall, a contributor to Forbes magazine, responding to Welby wrote against State involvement in food banks.
He said food banks had been until the present day a "voluntary addition to the welfare State."
"They've grown because people can see the cracks in that welfare State, can see that people are harshly (whether rightly or not) treated by it at times.
To then say that this failing must be solved by folding the solution into the very management system that is the problem is, well, it's bizarre, isn't it?"